David Phelps’ Big Chance

(Elsa/Getty Images)

It’s kinda funny how a few weeks ago, after the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte, there didn’t appear to be any room at the inn for guys like David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell. They were the numbers eight, nine, and ten starters in some order. Now we’re not even one full calender month into the season, and two of those guys are on the big league roster and one is scheduled to start tonight’s game. Amazing how quickly pitching depth can disappear.

Phelps, tonight’s starter, has impressed in six long relief outings even though his 5.66 FIP in 17.2 IP is rather unsightly. He gave up three homers in 6.2 IP against the Red Sox and Rangers late last month, which will do a number on the ol’ FIP this early in the season. I honestly think his 3.57 ERA more accurately portrays his performance at this point, but maybe I’m just being a homer. Phelps has struck out 14 batters in those 17.2 IP, a solid but unspectacular 7.13 K/9 and 19.7 K%. Two of his seven walks were intentional and his 42.6% ground ball rate is decent enough.

Obviously six long relief appearances do not tell the whole David Phelps story, but that doesn’t change the fact that tonight’s start is a big opportunity for him, legitimately the biggest opportunity of his career (to date). Freddy Garcia has already pitched himself out of the rotation and Phil Hughes is on a similar path, so there’s a chance for Phelps to seize a full-time starting spot even though Andy Pettitte’s return is on the horizon. Saying he just has to pitch better than Phil is an oversimplification because a 7.00 ERA would represent an upgrade and still stink. In order to keep a rotation spot, Phelps is going to have to show the ability to a) go 5+ innings each time out, and b) not let things get out of hand like it has for Garcia and Hughes so many times. It’s so horribly cliche but true.

I don’t think Phelps has forced the Yankees’ hand — his performance has been solid but not overwhelmingly so — it’s more about getting Garcia the hell outta there. Phelps happened to be in the right place at the right time more than anything, but give him a lot of credit for doing what he had to do in Spring Training to win a job and then again in long relief to get noticed. The St. Louis native will have lots of friends and family in the stands tonight, so I’m sure his excitement level will be through the roof. The first career start is always a big one when it comes to nerves and stuff, but the evaluation process starts now and Phelps has to show he has what it takes to be a starter in this league if he wants to keep his rotation spot on more than just a temporary basis.

Yanks shut down by Arrieta, drop rubber game

Boy do the Yankees suck right now. Losing two games to the Orioles in the first half of the season is usually considered a disappointment, but two in one series? That’s rough.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Too Much Nova

Did you know that coming into this start, hitters had tagged Ivan Nova for a .343/.378/.619 batting line 111 plate appearances? That’s unbelievably bad. I knew he was giving up lots of fly balls and extra-base hits in the early going, but good grief, I didn’t realize it was that bad. I haven’t done the math, but chances are those numbers climbed even higher following Wednesday’s game.

Now don’t get me wrong, Nova was actually really good for the first six innings, holding the Orioles to just two runs and executing big pitches in big spots to escape jams. The only problem is that he went back out for the seventh after laboring through the sixth with his pitch count nearing 100, and Baltimore promptly tagged him for three more runs. Matt Wieters took him deep for a solo homer earlier in the game before hitting another ball off the top of the wall to end Nova’s night. The final result was five runs and 13 baserunners in 6.1 IP, raising his ERA to 5.58.

Two runs isn’t a huge deal, the Yankees were by no means out of it at that point, but the game was over after those three tack-on runs in the seventh. The worst part is that I’m 100% certain Joe Girardi tried to squeeze another inning out of Nova just to see if they could extend his win streak, a streak that officially came to an end at 20 starts. I’m sure Ivan appreciates the gesture, but let’s not make a habit out of managing to stats or milestones, mmmkay?

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

LOLffense, Still

In three games against the Orioles at home, the Yankees scored a total of three runs. All three came on two homers — a two-run shot by Eric Chavez on Monday and a solo number by Curtis Granderson on Tuesday. Pretty much everyone other than Derek Jeter and Granderson is in some kind of slump, either recent or extended, though Alex Rodriguez did contribute two singles in this game. As a team, the Yankees struck out ten times against zero walks to bring their K/BB for the series to 32/4. Ugly.

The Yankees didn’t get a single hit with runners in scoring position tonight and you know why? Because they didn’t even get a runner past first base. Five singles and nothing more, they didn’t advance even one runner. They scored the two runs on Monday, the one run on Tuesday, and zero runs on Wednesday. I can only assume David Phelps will get -1 runs of support tomorrow. With all due respect to Jake Arrieta, who really did pitch a helluva game, this offense is pathetic right now. Seriously.

Leftovers

I’m willing to take at least some of the blame for the loss given my pre-game proclamation. At least the NY Rangers held up their end of the bargain.

Three days after being banished to the bullpen, Freddy Garcia resurfaced in this game with two scoreless innings in garbage time. He allowed a pair of hits and walk without striking out a single batter. Hard to see him being trusted in anything other than a blowout right now. Clay Rapada and Cory Wade both pitched as well, with the latter recording an out on the only pitch he threw. Hooray for efficiency.

On a serious note, Eric Chavez left the game with whiplash and a possible concussion after attempting to make a diving stop at the hot corner. He went for more tests after the game and will not travel with the team to Kansas City. Brandon Laird is the obvious call-up candidate when Chavez is placed on the DL tomorrow. Hopefully he’s okay, concussions are nothing to mess around with. Just ask Brian Roberts or Justin Morneau.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

The game wasn’t nearly as close as the WPA graph suggests. MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees are off to Middle America for a four-game series against the Royals, where right-hander David Phelps will make his first career start on Thursday night. He’ll be opposed by southpaw Danny Duffy.

Banuelos strong in return from DL

Got some more minor league notes than usual, so let’s break out the bullet points…

  • Remember Juan Carlos Paniagua? The Yankees signed him for $1.1M last year but the deal was later voided due to falsified documents. The 22-year-old will be eligible to sign again this July, and Conor Glassey got a fresh look at his live arm yesterday. Paniagua will be subject to the new spending restrictions and it’ll be interesting to see if the Yanks pursue a new deal.
  • Local columnist Gene Sapakoff says the current Low-A Charleston team is the best in franchise history. The River Dogs came into today leading their division with a 16-7 record.
  • D.J. Mitchell’s two-hit gem last month was the second best pitching performance in all of Triple-A during April. By Game Score (84), it was the sixth best performance in all of minor league baseball during the season’s first month.
  • Pat Venditte was placed on the DL with right arm soreness, which explains why he had been pitching exclusively left-handed of late. Triple-A Empire State also activated two players following last night’s game: OF Cole Garner (DL) and RHP Cody Eppley (demotion).

And now to the games…

Triple-A Empire State (2-1 win over Rochester)
LF Kevin Russo, CF Dewayne Wise & DH Jack Cust: all 0-4 — Wise and Cust each struck out twice
2B Jayson Nix: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
1B Steve Pearce: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K — 16 for his last 33 (.485) with six doubles and three homers
C Frankie Cervelli: 2-3, 1 R — 13 for his last 38 (.342)
3B Brandon Laird, RF Cole Garner & SS Ramiro Pena: all 1-3 — Laird doubled … Garner struck out … Pena doubled, drove in a run, and struck out
LHP Manny Banuelos: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 3/2 GB/FB — 38 of 60 pitches were strikes (63.3%) and he was up to 94 on the stadium gun … very nice first start back from the lat problem, and he should get it up to 75 or so pitches next time out
RHP Jason Bulger: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 4/2 GB/FB — 26 of 39 pitches were strikes (66.7%)
RHP Cody Eppley: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 20 of 38 pitches were strikes (52.6%)

[Read more…]

Update: Eric Chavez leaves game with whiplash and possible concussion

9:11pm: Chavez left the game with whiplash and a possible concussion. He hurt himself while diving for a ball an inning prior to leaving the game. Chavez will undergo more tests, but I can’t see any way he’ll avoid the DL. It’s worth noting that MLB instituted the 7-day DL for concussions last season, just in case you forgot (I did).

8:31pm: Eric Chavez left tonight’s game for an unknown reason in the middle of his fifth inning at-bat. He appeared to get dizzy all of a sudden and had to be helped off the field. Very weird. Eduardo Nunez replaced him at third base, leaving the Yankees with just Chris Stewart on the bench. Update(s) to follow.

Game 24: Brighten Up

One of these tonight, please. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The weather in New York today seems to reflect my feelings about the Yankees at the moment. Just … blah. It’s overcast and has been raining on and off all day, kinda like how the Yankees seem to be going up and down over the last few weeks. The starting pitching has been mostly underwhelming but has improved of late while the offense started out well before some injuries robbed the club of some punch. It’s not ideal, neither the weather or the team’s recent performance. Here’s the lineup…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin

RHP Ivan Nova

Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET, though the weather isn’t great in New York. It’s been drizzling on and off all day and that’s expected to continue all night. Not baseball weather, but unlikely to cause a postponement or significant delay. The game can be seen on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.

Update: Yankees sign Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia

Update (6:08pm): Via Marc Carig, Garcia signed a one-year minor league deal worth $400k. So the report of six years and $16M was just slightly off the mark, eh?

5:00pm: Via Ben Badler, the Yankees have signed 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia. The terms of the contract are unknown, but Brian Cashman shot down reports of a six-year, $16M offer back in March. I would be stunned if the deal came even remotely close to that number.

The 5-foot-7, 180 lb. right-handed hitter put up a .270/.313/.461 batting line during winter ball, though Badler says Garcia “doesn’t have any standout tools, so it’s hard for scouts to see him fitting in as a big league regular.” Whatever the signing bonus is, it will not count towards this year’s international spending limit. That doesn’t kick in until July 2nd.

Gardner still feeling pain in elbow, will be shut down for a few days

Via Marc Carig, outfielder Brett Gardner still feels some pain in his right elbow and will be shut down for a few days. He had been swinging a bat in the cage the three or four days and is eligible to come off the DL tomorrow, though that obviously won’t happen. Despite Gardner’s setback, the Yankees are not planning to call up another outfielder according to Joe Girardi. That is just insane.